109 years ago, one of the darkest pages of world history was written. The transatlantic Titanic, one of the largest ships to ever be built, and the largest ship of its time, sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912, carrying 2,224 passengers and crew.
After colliding with an iceberg during its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York, US, the gigantic ship was wrecked in two, killing more than 1,500 people. Even to this day, the tragedy of the Titanic, is considered to be one of the deadliest maritime accidents in modern history.
What many do not know is that among the casualties, there were four Greek passengers, who left Europe, looking for a better life and new opportunities in America.
Panagiotis Lymperopoulos, Vassilios Katavelos and brothers Apostolos Chronopoulos and Dimitrios Chronopoulos, came from the same village, Agios Sostis, in the region of Messinia in the Peloponnese.
They were all under the age of 30 and once they heard the news about the Titanic and the cruise to the US, they travelled to Marseilles in France, to board the ship at the port of Cherbourg.
Tragically, their dreams, like those of many others who were lost that night, never came true, as all four of them died in the most famous shipwreck in naval history, and although the bodies of Lymperopoulos and Katavelos were believed to have been recovered, those of the two Chronopoulos brothers were never found.
The Untold Stories of the Greek Passengers of the Titanic
Panagiotis Lymperopoulos, who was 30 years old at the time, was the owner of a small factory in New York City. He had travelled back to Greece – where his family was located – for the christening of his son and wanted to return back to the US to continue with his plans on expanding his business. Despite his wife’s insistence on staying longer in Greece and spending time with the family, he thought that the Titanic trip would be once in a lifetime opportunity, and so, he took the Chronopoulos brothers with him and offered them jobs in the US.
In fact, he had already purchased a ticket for a different cruise ship, but changed his ticket last minute, so that he could travel along with the other three Greek passengers.
Lymperopoulos was also the only one who managed to board one of the lifeboats, as the fact that he could speak English well, helped him find his way on deck. However, his lifeboat was lost in the ocean and he did not survive the shipwreck.
Vassilis Katavelos was only 19 years old when he boarded the Titanic. His older brother was already living in the US and had managed to create a fortune working there, so Vassilis wanted to join him.
Following the advice of his fellow villager, Panagiotis Lymperopoulos, he agreed to travel to the US, so he sold his sheep in Messinia and bought a ticket to Marseilles to board the Titanic.
After his tragic loss, his brother, who was waiting for him in the US, received only Vassilis’ comb and birth certificate from the shipwreck.
Apostolos Chronopoulos, 26, had already worked in America as an interpreter for a few years, but had returned to Greece to meet with his younger brother Dimitris, 18, and take him to New York, to work at Lymperopoulos’ factory. Initially, the two brothers were going to travel the Atlantic with another ocean liner that was much more affordable, but their new employer, Panagiotis Lymperopoulos, persuaded them to change their tickets and travel with the Titanic to get to the US faster.
In the months following the tragedy, many of the bodies of the passengers of the Titanic were washed ashore in Canada, and their remains were buried at the Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It is believed that 121 victims of the sunken ship have been buried in Fairview, and one third of them were never identified, so their graves only state the date of their death. It is possible that the bodies of the Greek passengers were among those found in the area.
The four Greeks of the Titanic were, however, never forgotten in their homeland. A small monument made of marble was built in their honour outside of the local church in their village in Messinia.
“In memory of the four Greek victims of the Titanic of 1912 seeking a better fortune in the United States for themselves and their families. Vassilios G. Katavelos, Panagiotis K. Lymperopoulos, Apostolos M. Chronopoulos, Dimitrios M. Chronopoulos”, are the words inscribed on top of the monument plague, as the spirit of the Greek travellers goes on.